September 21, 2005
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address you about the complaint regarding Police Chief Mullan’s trip to Israel.
I would like to stress from the outset that our complaint is not directed personally against your Board or Chief Brian Mullan since we are aware that the trip was initiated by Bernie Farber, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and driven by Minister Monte Kwinter. Our presentations are intended to impress upon you the concern, apprehension and anger that have gripped many Canadians and especially Arab and Muslim Canadians as a result of this unfortunate and ill-advised trip.
Toady, some people will try to cloud the issue and personally attack the people behind this complaint by calling them leftists, anti-Zionist Jews, hate mongers, extremist Arabs and Muslims, etc., and will warn you of dire consequences if you accept our complaint. I urge you not to be intimidated by such threats, disparagement and innuendos. These are diversionary tactics used by desperate people who cannot refute any of the evidence we have presented, and I ask you to challenge them to do that, regarding Israeli policies and practices which have been repeatedly condemned by Amnesty International as war crimes, crimes against humanity and discriminatory. We only ask that you listen to our presentations with an open mind and with your heart, and to judge our complaint based on its merit and by focusing on the issues it raises.
Canada is a country guided by a unique Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and progressive Human Rights Code, and we do not want to import abhorrent Israeli policies and practices to our cities.
I know it requires great humility to admit that your decision to send Chief Mullan on a trip to Israel was wrong and it takes greater moral courage to make a decision that may upset the powerful Israeli lobby in Canada. But any honest review by independent observers of the evidence and facts presented in our complaint will only arrive at the conclusion that this trip was designed as a public relations exercise for the State of Israel where our police officials were bombarded with Israeli propaganda and were kept in the dark about its racist laws and the serious human rights abuses committed by its security agencies.
Some will argue today that this trip was an educational one, and that it had no political undertones. Actions and statements made by police chiefs who went on the trip utterly dispel this notion. Chief La Barge of York Region described Israel as “one of the world’s most sophisticated democracies that deals with terrorism”, Chief Blair of Toronto characterized Israelis as a people who “carved a beautiful society out of the desert”, and Deputy Chief Foster of Belleville stated “Israelis are heroes” and praised their “resilience and sensitivity”.
As you are well aware, stereotyping is based on ignorance and it ultimately results in prejudice. Such statements not only indicate that our police chiefs were misinformed and misled by their Israeli hosts but also appear to endorse the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and approve of the Israeli racist laws. They also imply a political opinion that views anyone who criticizes Israeli policies and practices as being backward, undemocratic, cowardly, insensitive, and a terrorist supporter. In effect, then, the trip has contributed to the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims.
Some will also argue today that the trip was a balanced fact-finding mission since the police chiefs met with both Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. This false rumour should fool nobody. The police delegation spent 7 days meeting with 19 Jewish Israeli political leaders, experts and police officials but were not allowed to meet with Arab Israeli leaders who would have told them about the institutionalized discrimination they face in leasing or owning land, employment, education, housing, municipal funding, family re-unification, the police prejudice against them, and the use of excessive force by the police. In addition, the Ontario police delegation only met, on the last day before they left for the airport, for 2 hours with representatives of the PA, and they were offensive and patronizing to them – hardly an indication that they were interested in learning about both perspectives.
In the days of apartheid South Africa the apartheid government used to sponsor free or subsidized trips to South Africa for any politician, actor or athlete who would degrade themselves by going. Inevitably, in order “to show balance” the apartheid government representatives would trot out a person named Chief Buthelezi, a Zulu leader, who opposed the African National Congress. In this way, the foreign visitors could say that they also met an important Black leader. This trick did not fool us then in Canada and the same trick will not fool us now.
Moreover, the fact that the 2 hour meeting took place under the auspices of the Israeli government makes the meeting nothing more than window dressing. Had the PA organized such a meeting they would have demanded full control and equal time to the police chiefs’ Israeli propaganda itinerary. The PA would have insisted that the Ontario police chiefs visit the occupied and besieged towns of the West Bank and Gaza, interview victims (or their families) of Israeli torture, unlawful killings, beatings, detentions without trial, home demolitions, interminable delays at checkpoints, school closures, curfews, and the like.
I suppose the quick and easy route for your Board would be to reject our complaint out of hand and by doing so ingratiate yourself to those who organized the trip: Joel Richler, Chair of the Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario Region; Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services; and Chief Armand La Barge, President of Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. We realize that the groups and individuals who have lodged this complaint, though representing a cross section of Canadian society – Muslims, Christians, Jews, Arabs, union leaders, church leaders, visible minorities – have modest resources and limited influence in the centres of power.
This is why we are appealing to your conscience and sense of fair play to implement in deed your stated mission of serving the interest of all segments of society, and ensuring that our police force learns the best policing practices. We urge you, in order to avoid being accused of paying lip service to your declared objectives, to seriously consider the following corrective actions:
- the recovery of public funds spent on this trip
- an apology to the Hamilton community, and especially to Hamilton’s Palestinian community which has seen relatives and families turned into refugees by the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and others living under Israeli occupation since 1967 subjected to serious human rights abuses
- a program of education and sensitivity training for the police chief and members of the Police Services Board on the special problems of racial discrimination faced by members of Toronto’s Arab and Muslim communities
- the establishment, through a careful review, of criteria for sending police officials on trips outside of Canada, especially when these trips are funded by a foreign power
Khaled Mouammar (Tel.: 905-508-0562)